Category Archives: Communication

20 years ago today

Twenty years ago today was Northern Territory Election Day: 30 August 1997.

The Australian Labor Party had never governed in the Territory, and never looked like they would win the 1997 Election.  Labor polling showed them heading for a bloodbath – they were starting with only 7 seats in the 25-seat Legislative Assembly, but Party polling showed they were on track to lose several more.

From early that year, Labor’s caucus led by Maggie Hickey seized on the many issues of weakness for the governing Country-Liberal Party (CLP) and worked with real focus in the run-up to Election Day.  Labor’s polling showed the electorate had little regard for the CLP, and the aggressive advertising campaign closely paraphrased the research findings.

The TV ads, in particular, were controversial and met with a mixed reception, but all evidence is that the average voters, mostly, loved them:

The result?  Labor lost one seat, for local reasons quite unconnected with the main campaign.



US Elections – How Donald Trump Won

hill-and-donCompare Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Donald Trump clearly won the latter through a massive turnout of rarely-votes in the middle of the state (see and appears to have won the former by winning over previous Democrat voters (see – though more analysis will give a better picture.

That’s two entirely different ways of winning, in two important states.

Obama in the contested 2008 Primary had a successful State-by-State win plan: did Trump have the same in 2016?  These different patterns in two critical states suggest perhaps he did.

Kellyanne Conway was his final campaign manager and deserves major credit for his victory, but she took over only a scant 12 weeks out from election day – could she have created and executed such a state-by-state plan in so short a time?  Her predecessors, incompetent and possibly corrupt, seem unlikely to have had such insight and coherence.

Insider-tell-all books after the 2008 and 2012 election cycle answered many questions about internal strategy development – the 2016 version may tell us whether there was such a plan, or whether luck and happenstance played a bigger part.

However, Kellyanne achieved in less than three months something much more formidable: she created a new candidate and a new election, and hence a winning coalition, by taming Trump.

Before the Presidential Debates, Trump had set about making himself the outsider who could upturn politics-as-usual and fix a failed system.  His plain speaking, deliberately provocative and deliberately different from Republican orthodoxy, had built a loyal following amongst those alienated from the “American Dream”, but failed to broadly inspire evangelical Christians, and alienated moderate Republicans.  His support, lacking those two components of the Republican base, was insufficient for victory.

Just prior to the October 19 third debate, his language moderated, his insults decreased, and the content of his ad-hoc statements became more coherent.  At the third debate, he pivoted, pressed the case for the Republican Right’s hot-button policies, and they flocked to his banner.  Post-debate, he became increasingly a more polished and less alienating candidate.  Some of the moderate Republicans, contemplating voting for Hillary, moved back to the fold.

To the Republican base, Trump now looked – more-or-less – like a Republican.

Quite suddenly, the Clinton campaign faced a different candidate, who now led a coalition of the disaffected and the Republican base, to which they had no adequate counter.  It’s not even clear they noticed the new candidate.



(Half of Ethical Consulting Services (Mike) has been embedded in the campaign since mid-October.)



Ethical Consulting: 612ABC this Thursday

hill-and-donIf all goes to plan, Mike Smith from Ethical Consulting Services will be live on Steve Austin’s Morning Program at about 10.30 am on Thursday 19 October, on 612 ABC Brisbane local radio.

Mike is embedded within the US Presidential campaign, until US election day on 8 November. and has been blogging about the campaign since early October.




US Elections – What’s Happening?

hill-and-donThis year, US Presidential election day is 8 November.

Half of the Ethical Consulting Services team – that would be Mike – is off, shortly, to embed within the US Presidential campaign, in Philadelphia.

This blog is nearly always the best summary of where the competing Presidential stand in the polls.  It’s easy to pick which states are critical, by checking out their maps and the blog.

Other elections are going on, as well:

Mike is hoping to blog about his experiences while he’s away, but these campaigns are hard work and he’s not promising.

And, why Philadelphia?  Pennsylvania is usually a highly competitive state for the Presidential ballot, so campaigners get to see world-class campaigning (Mike was there in 2004 for John Kerry’s campaign, and 2008 and 2012 for the two Obama campaigns); plus, the polls are very tight in Pennsylvania right now, and Donald Trump has previously said he’ll target the State.

This also means our “Last Week in Queensland” weekly blogs and newsletters will be having a break, from 4 October to 21 November.

Happy Anniversary To Us!

_LDP8380-cropped and smallAlmost exactly a year ago, Stephen Robertson and Mike Smith relaunched Ethical Consulting Services as a partnership.

We’re still having fun helping clients with

  • Governance and meeting skills
  • Government and stakeholder relations
  • Project and inbound investment facilitation
  • Branding, marketing, campaigns, and communication

… and training in any of the above!



How To Lobby

demandingA great resource if you want something from Government – our updated* directory of How To Lobby articles**, published over the last thirty months, and indexed by topics.

Click one of these links to take you to that topic/heading:

      1. Why
      2. Who Does It?
      3. Reality Bites
      4. Strategy
      5. The Basics
      6. Targeting
      7. Policy Processes – What You MUST Know
      8. Getting Ready
      9. The Meeting
      10. What To Ask For
      11. How To Ask For It
      12. When To Ask
      13. Specialties


Why Lobby?

“Why Lobby?” Encore

Take me back to the top of this article!

Who Does It

Who’s a Lobbyist?

Who’s Your Best Lobbyist?

Take me back to the top of this article!

Reality Bites

Lobbying: The Dirty Truth

Myths & Legends of Lobbying

Dogbert Does Lobbying
Regulating Lobbyists: Hardly

Australian Lobbying: Credibility Fail

Take me back to the top of this article!


Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!

Strategy & Delusion

DON’T Increase Awareness

Take me back to the top of this article!

burke-grillThe Basics

Lobbying: 6 Things to Know

Lobbyists Do WHAT?

Lobbying is Marketing

Take me back to the top of this article!


“Get Me The Premier!”

Who’s the Decision-Maker?

Take me back to the top of this article!

Policy Processes – What You MUST Know

Mysterious & Mysteriouser: How Did THAT Happen?

“So When WILL They Decide???”

From Althaus, Bridgman and Davis

From Althaus, Bridgman and Davis

How’s Your Rat King?

The Uber-Rat-King

What IS A “Policy Instrument,” Anyway?

Sax vs. Cymbals

Take me back to the top of this article!

Getting Ready To Lobby

Lobbying Labor’s Queensland Government: How?

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The Meeting

How to Get That Meeting

What if You Can’t Connect with the Decision-Maker?

When you meet the Minister …

Take me back to the top of this article!

What To Ask For

Persuading Government: What You Say

What Makes A Policy Good?

Make Your “Ask” Feasible

Take me back to the top of this article!

agressive-manHow To Ask For It

Connecting with Decision-Makers

Tell Government a Story!

Motivating & Persuading

Persuading Government: How To Say It

The Talking Dead: Say This & Your Project Dies

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When To Ask

Election Time: Early Birds Get Worms!

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Crisis Management 101

And now, over to you:

What other topics would you like to see covered?  What have you struggled with in the past, when looking for decisions from Government?


* With more content than the version published in 2015!
** There will be more!
Take me back to the top of this article!


Better Brainstorming

brainstorming-dollarEthical Consulting Services runs many training sessions for clients, and we often include brainstorming* sessions.

This short article has some great ideas for making brainstorming sessions work better – watch out for us to be inflicting them upon you, and feel free to test them out for yourself:


*     Here’s a bit of an explanation if you have never met “brainstorming” before and aren’t sure what it is:



Better Meetings: How?

meeting-angry-dollarDo you spend too much time in meetings that drive you nuts and waste your time?

There’s remarkably little good advice around, about how to make your meetings better, so we’re fixing that.

You can try:

  • this article from Bob Holderness-Rodham, which is reasonably simple and basic, or
  • this blog post from us, which is a bit deeper, or
  • this article from the Institute of Company Directors, which is mostly for higher-level and more formal meetings but does have many good suggestions,

or send us a message – we’re already helping others out with training and mentoring, customised to their needs!




Meetings, Bloody Meetings!

angry-meeting-dollarMeetings are supposed to be an organised process facilitating good decisions, involving several people with a common goal: too many of us spend too much time in meetings that don’t deliver, are frustrating, or just rubbish.

And they’re hard to change from the inside, aren’t they?  First you have to realise they’re a problem, then work out what’s wrong with them in a coherent way you can communicate, then come up with a way to fix them that won’t terminally offend or bore everyone else involved.

There’s no generic solution, because no problem is common to every meeting, but here’s a few ideas that might make your meeting* better:

  • Adopt the minimum necessary standing orders**, make sure everyone’s familiar with them, and make sure the Chair sticks to them;
  • Hold a regular planning day for the Committee/Board – say, once a year – facilitated by someone external, so all members can participate fully, including the Chair.  This helps develop a shared purpose and focus for future meetings;
  • There must be a strategy, or plan, or achievable and defined objective for every group that meets – otherwise, what’s the point of the meeting?
  • Insist on follow-up of meeting decisions – maybe through an action list circulated for each meeting;
  • Don’t let important decisions get made without members having prior warning and an opportunity to inquire, contemplate, and prepare;
  • Rotate chairing, so less experienced members get to improve their skills;
  • Induct new committee members properly: training in meeting procedures and committee member responsibilities, and a “welcome on board” kit with the constitution, rules, standing orders and forward plan;
  • Insist reports include clear and specific recommendations reflecting the issues raised by the report;
  • Discuss only those recommendations – otherwise you end up nit-picking your way through the whole report;
  • woman-reporting-meeting-dollarIf reports are verbal, and decisions are made (or not made) based on them, then there needs to be a record of key points made;
  • Check meeting minutes to ensure they reflect all decisions – not the discussion;
  • Ensure meeting business – the agenda – is built around effectively delivering on the agreed strategy;
  • Help keep debate is relevant, robust and respectful;
  • Your rules or standing orders should ensure proxying is rare or prohibited – continuity of involvement is important;
  • Be ready to strictly enforce rules and standing orders, for example when members try to speak three times, or incessantly, or off-topics;
  • At the same time, make sure no member feels excluded from the decision-making process;
  • Support the Chair in delivering on all of these – and keep pushing to ensure they can and do!
  • Take personal responsibility for ensuring meetings function effectively: when they’re not, make appropriate suggestions and interventions.

Sometimes, it is easier to get someone from outside to audit your meetings and provide proposals for improvement – Ethical Consulting Services can help improve your meetings.

… and, here’s a tip: if a subset of members feel they should get together before a meeting and decide how to behave and what to say in the meeting, intending to smother the views of others, then your meetings are a failure, guaranteed.



* Particularly committee or board meetings
** Supremacy of the Chair, speaking time limits, no speaking twice in one debate, speaking only to motions, and a few others depending on the nature of your meeting.  Here’s a draft template for standing orders that you’re welcome to use – change it as required!



Elections & Lobbying: Early Birds Get Worms

early_bird_smallTo be the cat that’s got the cream, remember that the early bird definitely gets the worm … when it comes to ensuring an election campaign embraces your policy proposal.

Many people looking for a decision from Government see election time as an opportunity. It can be, but only if you approach it in the right way.

It is true that at election time Governments, parties and candidates are all intent on compiling an attractive and differentiating package of policy and program proposals, and some of them welcome input from industry, community groups and individuals.

However, be warned: capable Governments, political parties and candidates start putting their election policies together a long way out from Election Day, and finalise them months out from Election Day. As a general rule, the bigger the policy announcement or the bigger the budget associated with a policy announcement, the earlier will work commence.

Most advocates looking to make use of election timing as an opportunity to press the case for their particular proposal leave it far, far too late.

What constitutes timeliness varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and depends a lot on the tier of Government with which you are dealing; this makes it impossible to advise a general rule, but a year out from an anticipated Election Day is not necessarily too early to begin advocacy of your proposition.

If you leave your intervention too late, then you have created an additional burden for yourself: as well as proving the validity of your idea or proposal, you will also need to prove that it is of sufficient political or community (i.e. campaigning) importance that the candidate or Party should reopen their policy development processes, and consider incorporating your proposal.

cat_cream_smallAs an outsider to the process you might think that this is quick and easy, but depending on campaign resources and Party resources, and in particular the budgetary impact of your proposal, it can be a significant organisational or time burden to a candidate or a Party late in the campaign, to reopen their policy development processes.

The barriers to raising a new idea in the months immediately before Election Day are substantial.